1: 02am - Poem by Cyril Wong
I try to picture my parents in their musty bed, their bodies
fallen apart in sleep. Back then, I had to settle for the floor
I could still roll off from to slide down fantasies of leaving
school, retreating behind the desks of well-paying jobs,
and coming home to a spacious apartment without cracks
in the ceiling that squinted through the blur of a spinning fan.
Above the bed hung a calendar from which father ripped
the months to scrawl 4D numbers across their backs,
digits he believed could bring him peace, which the radio
languorously announced like a Buddhist chant slowed down.
The goddess of mercy loomed over the bedroom door, stiff
and slightly aglow in her make-shift altar, haunting our last
few minutes of wakefulness, before eyes closed like mouths,
swallowing the night, sleep tipping us gently over to spill us
back into ourselves. I can almost smell my mother as she
stays asleep in my mind, her mouth left open so she would
complain of a dry throat in the morning. I smell the lotion
she rubbed all over her neck and arms for her eczema.
Soon morning will creep in like a lover and our bodies will be
caressed by that warm, dust-heavy light. I close my hand,
only to feel the slim mattress between my fingers, nostalgia
expanding to a dream inside my head like a trompe l’oeil
coming to life, pushing out from inside its frame. If I open
my eyes for real, I wonder if I might even face the closet
where our clothes would be kept, mother’s bras folded and
piled up next to father's underwear, and in that corner
the long cane used to whip my school grades into shape.
This moment, far from an eventual knowledge of loneliness,
when mother’s kiss meant love, not need, and father’s hand
on my shoulder still assured, You can be anything; I’m always
here behind you, it is a Sunday morning. I have no homework
today. I have finished it the day before. Indian music opens
the neighbour’s window; a silky, filigree voice, lulling me
with that possibility of elsewhere. And even before it is time,
this scene is fading around the edges, soaking through with
shadows, the moment rolling into memory’s deep drawer.
And I pull myself back to the front of my head, arriving
right behind my eyes, which open, only taking in the dark.
Like a pragmatic heart, the clock jumps to life, projecting
a steady beam of sound through the air, clearing a path
for the mind as it enters the present. I have no work today.
I have finished it the day before. But I do. Too much work
today. Too many things to do at the office. Then some sanity
at another evening’s end: a meal, a book, and some music.
I lie in bed waiting for the dark to lift, for another morning
to wander into this room and leave its mark on everything.
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